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Glassmaking Class Provides a Sparkling Experience

Fused glass creations are only limited by the imaginations of older students


By Barbara La Valleur

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Credit: Barbara La Valleur

Editor's Note: This story is part of the Vitality Arts Special Report.

Teacher and artist Ruth Ross Hansen, 64 (pictured in center of photo above), developed a deep passion for glass and jewelry arts after she enrolled in a fused glassmaking class at a local school more than 20 years ago. She even started her own company, My Own Designs, selling exclusively at the Paramount Gift Gallery at Paramount Center for the Arts in St. Cloud, Minn.; she also volunteers at the center several hours a month.

At an introductory class at Paramount Center for the Arts to create a simple fused glass tabletop sun catcher, eight women between the ages of 50 and 75 gathered to learn this new art form. The investment: a two-hour class plus $30, which included supplies. Follow the process in the accompanying slideshow.

Credit: Barbara La Valleur

The first hour, Hansen, who has been teaching for 13 years, provided a thorough explanation of the process of working with fused glass; various tools; techniques and terms like glass cutters; mosaic cutters (wheels); the grinder machine for smoothing out edges; scoring; breaking; diamond dust and eventually, the kiln.

Credit: Barbara La Valleur

“We use every piece of glass,” Hansen said. “I can cut just about anything and any shape,” and thus she could demonstrate those skills to her students with confidence.

Jenni Morine, above, uses the grinder to take the edges off a piece of glass.

Credit: Barbara La Valleur

Sara Zerafa and several other students used Pinterest images on their mobile phones as guides for their design. Most of them had ideas in their minds’ eye as they carefully selected their color schemes.

Glassmaking Class

Credit: Barbara La Valleur

Before long, the classroom was abuzz with conversation, laughter and colorful images of flowers, trees, grass, a sunburst, a wave and abstract images emerging on their 3” x 10” glass base, held by a small wooden frame supplied upon completion of the kiln process.

Linda Harris, shown here, was participating in her first glassmaking class.

Credit: Barbara La Valleur

Anne Deters’ colored glass sun is bound to catch the sun’s rays when it is complete. Here, she models her creation on the original work of artist Randie Silverstein.

The sun catchers must be fired for 24 hours to 1320°F, cooling down to 360°F and then left to harden for two weeks.

Credit: Barbara La Valleur

According to Hansen, when it comes to creating a piece of art, “No matter your age, fiscal limitations, even location, your imagination is your only limitation.”

Student Sandie Trasport agreed. “It’s very refreshing, therapeutic, relaxing and gives you a different view of things. It lets your inner child come out,” she said.

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By Barbara La Valleur
Barbara La Valleur is an international photojournalist living in Minneapolis. Her current photo exhibit, ¡Hola,Cuba!, at First Universalist Church in Minneapolis runs through Oct. 14. On Oct. 11, she opens an exhibit called European Women in Traditional Male Professions and Trades at the Pearson Lakes Art Gallery, Lake Okoboji, Iowa.

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